To Bend to the Wind
Usually the wind is shallow in these parts. In the forests of West Vancouver, which were my home for many years, it is true that there is some wind, but only to a certain degree. I can say with absolute sincerity that today has been the one of most extreme wind-wise that I have ever encountered.
I was perched contentedly on my branch, along with my many siblings, when it began. At first the wind was just another bitter one of early spring, making us shiver with the cold, but it gradually grew until it was all we could do to cling on. For some inexplicable reason, my siblings and I had always feared being torn from our branches, to spiral into the unknown, but this time was different. This time I had a plan. There was truly no real reason why my siblings feared the wind—they only feared the unknown that lay beyond it.
I was determined to prove to my siblings that there was nothing to fear from the unknown, and as the bitter cold performed a particularly sharp jerk on us all, my fingers slipped and I released the branch, allowing myself to be swept away in a gust of wind.
Originally, my back stood rigid against the wind as I attempted to keep my form, but I soon found my attempts fruitless and permitted the wind to bend me at its will. Out of the forest, down the steep ledge and along I flew, fluttering in the wind. A mild whiff of damp and salt reached my nose, informing me that I had reached the ocean.
And then I stopped fluttering abruptly, and turning my head I could see that I was pressed against the windowpane of a vivid yellow school bus. Relieved not to be twisting so nauseatingly in the wind any longer, I squinted into the darkness and was able to see the contents of the bus.
A quintet of girls and boys sat nearest to me, and they were all clearly breathless with laughter. One of them, the tallest with coppery bronze curls, pointed to the window, and it took me a moment to realize that she was gesturing to me.
"It's so pretty!" I could see her mouth through the glass. "Look at the reds!" I instinctively felt myself go warm with praise—it was true that I was amongst the most beautiful of us maple leaves with enviable crimson, bronze and gold woven into my skin. The other students smiled and nodded in agreement before one with long red hair changed the subject and began to whisper about another topic, and a wave of annoyance passed through me as the attention was turned off of me.
I perceived that the students in the bus were all wearing coats and scarves even though they were inside, but the odd thing was that I was outside and I did not feel the need. Perhaps I had grown used to the cold—I had grown up with it, after all.
The wind swept me up and off the windshield, twisting me to its will. Eventually, it must have gotten bored of that however, for it released me with an abrupt jolt, and I began to gently drift down towards buildings. It seemed to take forever, but after a while I came to rest on a balcony ledge, several stories up.
Content for the moment and out of reach of the wind, I closed my eyes and smiled to myself—I had done it. I had proved that there was nothing to be feared by the unknown! My siblings would never believe it, if I were to return home in one piece! The sun was now beginning its farewell, waving a thick blanket of scarlet light upon us as it descended. And yet even that faded and there I lay, ever still in the frigid night air on the balcony.
Just as I prepared myself to get some rest for the night though, the balcony door opened, drenching me in a wave of welcome, warm air. I looked up to see the girl from earlier on the bus, the one with curly hair, emerge from the room and shut the door behind her. With a sigh of resignation she plopped herself down on the small stool on the balcony and stared up at the endless sky, its stars veiled by dark clouds.
Then she began to cry. Tears fell, thicker than any I had ever seen before, and yet she didn't collapse in on herself, but instead seemed to find more the reason to sit up straight. As she cried, a steady rain began to fall, and I inched ever closer under the balcony roof.
For reasons that I couldn't explain, I sympathized with this girl, wanted to put my arm around her and tell her not to cry. But I could not, because I am leaf, and that is no customary leaf behavior. We get to watch lives unfold before us, not to take part in those lives.
So entangled with my own emotions, it took me a moment to realize that the wind had swept the rain sideways like sea spray, and that it was pulling me down, making my edges damp and ugly. When the weight tugging on me became too much to bear, I dropped off the edge of the balcony and straight down to the ground.
I landed in the arms of a bush below, near the entrance of the building on which I had been before. From the bustling valets outside to the crystal chandeliers dangling within the glass doors, my guess was that the students on the bus were now residing in a hotel. Exhausted from my wind aerobics, I shut my eyes and let myself sleep at last.
The term 'rude awakening' accurately describes my awakening that next morning, for I was greeted with the raucous noise of feet and yells of the students. Blinking rapidly to let my eyes adjust to the light, I could make out the students from the yellow bus shoving each other out of the hotel, led my some very strained-looking adults. They began to make their way past my bush and down a flight of stairs and into the village.
It was then I recognized the last two students from the bus—one was the girl with the long red hair, the other a rather large boy with dark hair. The boy whispered something to the girl, and as the rest of the class trooped away the pair dodged behind a pillar and waited until the rest of their friends were out of sight. Laughing, the two emerged and sat down on a bench to talk.
I noted that the girl was not wearing very much materially, and that surely if she kept on batting her eyelashes as she was presently doing, they would promptly fall off from strain. Then the boy spontaneously went very red and asked her a question in a considerably low voice, looking mildly embarrassed but very anxious for her answer.
"Will you go out with me?" I couldn't make sense of these words—go out where? Weren't they somewhere right now? They must have had an alternative meeting though, because upon hearing these words, the girl sprang to her feet and slapped him squarely across the face before marching away, leaving the boy looking sad and confused.
Obviously not wanting to linger, the boy departed shortly after she did, and I felt his pain. The girl had certainly seemed more than friendly to him, there had been no need to be so rude! Stifling a yawn, I shut my eyes once more, not expecting to wake for some time.
I woke to a scream.
"We have to get someone!"
"We'll get in trouble!"
"I don't care, he'll die if we don't do anything!"
"Rory, listen to yourself! They'll blame us! You can't tell anyone!"
"You don't understand." The voice of the curly-haired girl, Rory, was deadly low. "He-will-die. You saw the blood, we have to get someone—a teacher, a chaperone!"
"If they blame him-" The girl with the long red hair was cut off by her friend.
"I don't care. He's almost unconscious, I'll take the blame, just let me go!" The two girls were huddled outside the lobby. It was the darkest point of night, and the one with the red hair was attempting to tug Rory back, who was struggling to get inside the lobby.
"Calm down, he's not going to die! It's not that deep, I could see!"
"Tanya, are you kidding me? I mean, seriously, are you that selfish?" Rory wrenched her arm out of her friend's grip and ran into the lobby. For a moment Tanya just stood there, but when the distant echo of sirens arrived, she dashed away hastily.
Much to my grim surprise, the ambulance pulled up outside the hotel and four or five men ran in. The sirens were blaring directly in my ears, but my attention was on the scene unfolding before me. Within minutes, a crowd of students had gathered outside the hotel, shivering in the cold and clothed in only their pajamas. When the men exited the hotel carrying a stretcher with the form of a boy on it, several girls cried out and others looked away.
I spotted Rory and the dark haired boy huddled together in the crowd of students, while Tanya was nowhere to be found. For a terrible moment I actually wondered whether or not the boy on the stretcher was dead, but then I heard one of the men in uniforms mention stitches; surely they wouldn't be wasting time sewing someone back together if they were already dead!
One of the strained adults from earlier began shepherding the students back inside, and my eyes followed their tired, slumped figures back within the building.
Today I woke to a wind so fierce that it actually ripped and tore my body. Up and up I swirled, until I thought it wasn't possible to go any higher, and then I plummeted back down. Overcome with the immense challenge of allowing myself not to be destroyed by the wind, I permitted it to bend me, to even twist me, but focused on not being destroyed entirely.
I was now out over the ocean, and the silvery blue, which surrounded me, was either the sea or the sky, they were indistinguishable as I tumbled around like a ragdoll. Gradually, the wind brought me back closer to shore and along the highway from only days ago—in fact, there was even a yellow bus travelling along it!
As I grew closer, I caught snatches of scenes inside—of a laughing girl with long red hair, of a chatting one with coppery curls, and of a dark haired boy with a wide, open smile. From here, they appeared happy, kind, even.
You wouldn't usually look behind the eyes of the red haired girl and see that they were full of ice. It was not common for people to hear that the curly haired girls' laugh was hollow, and before this I wouldn't have noticed nor cared whether or not the boy's smile reached his eyes.
Despite the bitter cold, the forceful wind, I smiled to myself absentmindedly, and when the next rush of air hit me I moved with it. The wind carried me up and away from the bus, and I knew then that I would never see it again.
The yellow school bus eventually wound its way up and into the mountains.
The leaf eventually hit sea and sunk to the bottom.
The wind eventually died.